Red alert on your CoronaWarn app? Positive rapid test result? As Covid cases soar in Berlin due to the Omicron variant, it’s getting more likely you’ll need a PCR test in the coming weeks. But where can you get one for free? And why is a PCR test more reliable than a rapid test?
What’s the difference between a rapid test and a PCR?
Rapid antigen tests (Schnelltests) are still an effective way to detect an acute Covid-19 infection. They work by identifying proteins expressed by the coronavirus, but are less reliable at detecting infection when the viral load is low or at the tail ends of illness.
PCR tests use a different mechanism: they work by detecting genetic material typical of the virus and must be processed in a laboratory. PCR tests have a much greater sensitivity and specificity and are considered the gold standard when it comes to diagnosing new cases.
Where can I get a PCR test in Berlin?
The Senate Department for Health has information on all testing centres in Berlin. Most now offer only rapid testing, but some also have PCR services. PCR tests at commercial centres will cost upwards of €30, with express services even more expensive. Information on all the testing centres in Berlin can be found here.
Free PCR tests: Where can I get one in Berlin?
If you want certainty but don’t want to pay, it’s possible to get a free PCR test – providing you meet certain criteria. You can contact your family doctor, or make an appointment at one of the special Covid-19 practices that will test those with acute symptoms. KV Berlin provides an overview of these practices sorted by area here.
Berlin also has designated test centres in each district that offer free PCR testing. You’re entitled to a free PCR test at your local test centre if:
- You’ve taken a rapid home test and it’s positive
- You’ve taken a rapid test at a test centre and it’s positive
- You have a red warning of increased risk on your CoronaWarn app
- You’ve been identified as a contact case by a doctor or public health department
Here are the test centres offering free PCR tests in each district:
Testzentrum Plaza (Friedrichshain): Frankfurter Allee 71-77, Friedrichshain, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat+Sun 9am-6pm
Testzentrum Lichtenberg: Treskowallee 8, Karlshorst, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat+Sun 9am-6pm
Testzentrum Marzahn-Hellersdorf: Jänschwalder Str. 4, Hellersdorf, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat+Sun 9am-6pm
Testzentrum Wedding: Müllerstraße 143, Wedding, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat+Sun 9am-6pm
Testzentrum Neukölln: Leinestraße 37-45, Neukölln, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat+Sun 9am-6pm
Testzentrum Berlin Nord: Groscurthstr. 29-33, Buch, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat+Sun 9am-6pm
Testzentrum Reinickendorf: Senftenberger Ring 3A, Märkisches Viertel, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat+Sun 9am-6pm
Testzentrum Spandau: Am Juliusturm 64, Spandau, Mon-Fri 8am-1pm, Sat+Sun 8am-11am
Testzentrum Steglitz-Zehlendorf: Schloßstraße 37, Steglitz, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat+Sun 9am-6pm
Testzentrum Tempelhof-Schöneberg: Mariendorfer Damm 64, Tempelhof, 8am-5pm, Sat+Sun 9am-6pm
Testzentrum Oberschöneweide: Ernst-Ziesel-Str. 1, Schöneweide, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat+Sun 9am-6pm
Alternatively, you can find a commercial test centre who will try to charge you for the service – but Berlin residents are also entitled for free tests at these facilities, provided you meet the above criteria. Just book ahead and make sure you select the free test online!
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You can read tipBerlin’s guide to free PCR tests in German here.